Summary: Joseph flees to Egypt with his family in order to protect them from the jealous wrath of King Herod. God's action of love has created a reaction of fear and violence
Matthew 2:13-23 “Action and Reaction”
Usually the readings for a Sunday are rather positive in nature, but not this time. The story talks about exile, becoming an alien in a foreign land and the slaughter of innocent children. Lessons can be learned, though, in difficult situations as well as comfortable, positive ones. Certainly this is the case in the story of Jesus and his family’s flight to Egypt.
GUIDED BY AN ANGEL
Joseph continues to have angelic visions in this story. Previously an angel had appeared to him and told him that he should marry Mary because she was pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Now an angel appears to tell him to take his family and flee to Egypt. Later another angel will appear to tell him that he can return to his homeland. It is clear to see that God is intimately involved in the lives of his children and God wants to guide them.
We don’t put much stock in dreams. Few of us write down our dreams to be pondered later. Rarely do we think that God is speaking to us in our dreams—that seems a little too radical. Dreams are the only way that God speaks to us and guides us, though. God can use circumstances, people, the council of friends and family, the words of scripture, or that still small voice that we hear in our hearts.
The question really isn’t in whether or not God’s speaks to us, but rather do we really want to hear God. If we want to hear God, we may need to take the opportunity in our lives to listen to God. This may mean that we need to turn off the TV, pull out our ear buds and go to a quiet place to sit, wait and listen. When God speaks then we are faced with another question, “Do we really want to obey?” Joseph listened and obeyed. His obedience moved God’s plan forward.
WELCOMING THE ALIEN
Joseph took his family and fled to Egypt. There they lived lives as aliens. They were outsiders. They didn’t speak the language of the land and they were relegated to the most menial of labor. I am awed by the depth of their pain and suffering. I am also embarrassed by the fact that if they could have fled to the United States at that time, that they would not have been granted political asylum and they would have been told to go back to Bethlehem and wait. Obviously the course of history would have been radically changed. I think this underscores our need as a nation to address immigrant issues and realize that the answer is more than building a higher fence, increasing the number of Border Patrol Agents, and deporting twelve million people.
There are other lessons to be learned from Jesus’ life as an alien. At one time or another, we are all aliens—we flee because of some threat. We may run home, run away, go on a retreat, hide in a bottle, or simply seek to be alone. Where do you flee? As disciples of Jesus Christ, we can flee to the arms of the Lord. As the Psalmist has said, “He is our fortress and our rock.” Family and friends can be our support in times of need. There are even times when we may need to seek sanctuary in the church.
We may also ask ourselves how welcoming we are to aliens. What I mean is this … At times people flee to us for solace, encouragement, safety, strength. How welcoming are we of others? According to gospel accounts, Jesus never turned his back on human need. Can we say the same?
COMFORT IN ATTROCITIES
King Herod was furious that the wise men returned to their country without telling him who the new King of the Jews was. He ordered the extermination of all male children two years-old and younger in the area of Bethlehem. What Herod did was atrocious, unjustified, and in some senses unforgiveable. It also was entirely in his character.
We question why God doesn’t act in such situations. Why doesn’t God prevent them? It is troubling in this situation to realize first that Jesus was the cause of it, and secondly that Jesus escaped. It should be noted, though, that Jesus escaped only to meet his death on the cross some thirty-three years later.
We ask “Why?” but we will never find the answer to that question. Some ask “Why” and turn from God saying that God is neither loving nor all powerful.
We may at times be able to stand against the injustice and work to change. Often times, however, we can only be present in the face of tragedies and comfort the survivors. The grief is real, but healing is possible.